For rix_scaedu‘s donation and prompt.
“Bobby. Dolores. Jorge. Ryuu. Come here.“ Bruce stood on his porch and looked out at the yard. “Cherry. Kikyo. What part of here don’t you understand?”
“Sorry, Uncle Bruce!” The ragged chorus preceded the children to the porch. Bruce counted noses: One, two, three, four, five. “Where’s Kikyo?”
“She was playing with the kittens.” Dolores and Kikyo were cousin-twins, born within a day of each other from two of Bruce’s sisters. They were generally inseparable.
“Then go get her. Whatever she’s doing.” Kittens wasn’t something that would generally keep the kids from lunch. “Bobby, go with your sister.”
“Go. If anything’s weird, scream.” They knew that; that was drill. But Bruce still repeated it every chance he got. “Jorge, Ryuu, Cherry, come on in and wash up. Your mothers will be…”
A scream cut him off, one scream, two screams. Two. Not three. “Ryuu. Drill two. NOW.” Bruce was running before he finished the sentence, but he muttered a quick Working, enough to see that his nephew was doing as he’d said, gathering the younger children and getting them into the center room.
The barn was too far away. The defenses covered the barn too, of course, but a barn was not the most secure structure on which to hang that sort of thing. There were always holes. And they were supposed to be safe out here, out in the middle of nowhere…
The kids were still screaming. Two screams, still, two voices, not three. Bruce loaded up every attack spell he could spit out under his breath and woke up the farm’s overall defenses. Why wasn’t Kikyo screaming? Why wasn’t she making any noise?
He didn’t waste breath on swearing, but he did plenty of cursing in the silence of his mind. He should have gone himself, damnit. He should have known something was wrong with Kikyo didn’t show right away. He should have had the defenses up all the time.
The defenses themselves attracted attention; that was why they were mostly engage-in-crisis things. But he could have, if he’d spent enough time on it, come up with something passive that kept people away. He could have come up with a better alarm system. He could have…
In the barn, his oldest nephew was holding off an intruder with a pitchfork. The intruder was… was something, Bruce could tell that much. Humanoid, naked, with canted animal ears and a snakelike pattern over its skin. It was crouched over Kikyo, who was wrapped around her kittens.
Most of her kittens. A bloody tail on the ground suggested there was one less cat around than there had been. “Behind you, Bobby. Steady. Steady.” The boy was only ten. But he was a strong kid, and he took his responsibilities seriously. Bruce grabbed a spear off the wall and began circling.
The intruder was probably-male, although the long, matted hair made it hard to tell. It covered almost everything. “You need to let my niece go and leave. You need to leave now, alone, and never return.”
Level voice was the key. Level voice, strong voice. The creature tracked his movements but said nothing.
“Back away from the girl and leave.”
“Uncle Bruce?” Kikyo’s voice was weak but firm. “Uncle Bruce, he hurt Toby. I forgot to scream, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, Kiya. Get away from him now, okay?”
“But my kittens. I can’t leave my kittens here.”
Screw the kittens. “Kiya, I’ll do my best to protect the kittens, but I promised your mother I’d take care of you. This is not taking care of you.”
“He’s scared, Uncle Bruce.” Dolores had a knack for not being seen. Now she was standing right next to Bruce, between him and her brother. “He’s like the raccoon the other week. He doesn’t know what’s going on.”
Bruce brought his attention back to the creature’s eyes. There was no comprehension there, none, just fear and worry.
“We cannot bring home a feral Ellehemaei.”
“But the raccoon…”
“This one will do a lot more than tip over the garbage. He’s already … hurt… a kitten. And he hurt Kikyo.”
“I’m not hurt, Uncle Bruce.” Kikyo peeked up at him over the kittens. “He didn’t hurt me. Just Toby, because Toby bit him.”
“See?” Before he could stop her – before it would have occurred to her that she’d do such a thing – Dolores had wrapped her arms around the creature’s neck. “We can keep him, right?”
No Keep, damnit, no… Bruce moved very slowly towards the creature. The creature, in return, held up both hands. Its eyes were on Bruce, not on the girl hanging from its neck. “Kikyo, take the kittens and go behind Bobby. Now.”
“Come on, Kiya.” Bobby reached out his hands, responding to the tone in Bruce’s voice. “Over here. Hand me the funny striped one. And the pink one.”
“He’s not pink.” When she stood up, Bruce could see the angry red marks on her face and arm. The thing had pushed her aside, then, or she’d tripped. No claw marks, and everything seemed to be working properly.
That was longer than he wanted to look away. Bruce looked over, to see the creature was tracking Kikyo’s movements as well.
“Come on, Uncle Bruce. We can’t just throw him away. Can we keep him?”
Keep again. Bruce sighed. “Deborah, it’s not an animal. It’s a person, a feral Ellehemaei. It could do a lot of damage. And, what’s more, you can’t put people in cages the way we did with the raccoon.”
“Keep.” The creature’s voice was thin and reedy, unused-sounding. It knelt, carefully, one hand hovering near Deborah. Again, its eyes were on Bruce. “Keba oronto apestla tauon. Sa’…?”
Bruce sighed. Those words couldn’t easily be denied. I am under your Name. Sir…? “Uncle Bear.” His sisters hadn’t exactly Named him, but they’d certainly helped. “You are under my name, jae’…”
The creature shrugged. The children watched, until Kikyo offered, solemnly, “Bjorn.”
“You are under my name, jae’Bjorn. Come with me.” And here was hoping the thing knew more than those words, or this was going to be difficult.
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